There are two things we’ve learned over the years:
1) Mother Nature strikes when we least expect it, and
2) Because of #1, we must always be prepared
In other words: just because it appears that we’re close to being out of winter’s grasp, there’s a very high probability that it’ll be some time before we see the last of it in 2015. That in mind, our main concern is that you continue to keep safe out there during your commutes, whether it be to and from work, or to and from school, or wherever it is that you’re traveling to.
Which is where this list comes in. On deck are nine essential things to consider when winterizing your vehicle. Oh, and just because we love you, we’ve included four easy and fun extras at the end!
1. Snow Tires
If you haven’t gotten them already, snow tires (or winter tires, as they’re sometimes called) are a must if you’re regularly driving in snowy, icy, or slushy conditions. Because of their unique tread and groove designs, snow tires are meant to provide extra bite into the surface, putting a halt to skidding or fishtailing.
2. New Wipers
Sure, they may not be something big in size, but they’re crucial to winter-driving. No, seriously, in blustery conditions and with a defroster cranked high, your windshield wipers need to keep up, and actually clear off the windshield. If they don’t, it could mean nasty things.
When looking for new windshield wipers, be sure to target wipers made specifically for winter — winter wipers feature a traditional blade encased in a protective rubber shell, which keeps snow and ice out, away from the blade itself.
3. Extra Weight
Whether you drive a car, truck, mini-van, or crossover, a must for winter driving is to have extra weight in the back of the vehicle. Why? To cut down on slipping and fish-tailing when making a turn, of course.
The weight itself can come from a variety of things, though weighted plates (like you’d find at the local gym) tend to be the most popular choice. Other options include: mulch bags, cinder blocks, tires, and anything else you can think of that would provide significant weight to the back of your vehicle. Because that’s where the weight should go: the back of the vehicle.
4. Buy an Ice Scraper
Similar to windshield wipers, an ice scraper is neither an item of scale, nor is it sexy. But it is absolutely necessary. Because, when it comes down to it, do you really want to be using your credit card to scrape the ice from your windshield? Do you want to use an ungloved hand to wipe the snow from the hood?
Of course you don’t. So, make sure to have an ice scraper handy. Doesn’t have to be fancy; just has to be functional.
5. Keep Fluids on Hand
When we say fluids, we don’t necessarily mean antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc. Yes, those are most certainly important (if you have the space, always keep those on hand), but we’re talking about water, as well as what it can do when it freezes.
Two types of fluid we find extremely important are: 1) actual water — colder temperatures trick you into thinking that you’re hydrated, so, keep water on hand whenever you can in the event of an emergency, and 2) fuel treatment. This may apply more to the folks driving older vehicles (with more primitive fuel injection systems), but gas lines can freeze in cold temperatures, due to the water that has been trapped inside (melted snow near your gas tank, for example). That’s why it’s important to put periodically dump in a small bottle of fuel treatment before filling up at the nearest pump.
6. Keep a Shovel Handy
This one is probably self-explanatory, but ALWAYS keep a shovel handy. Why? Because would you want to dig your vehicle out of knee-high snow with your bare hands? We didn’t think so.
Look, we just want you to be prepared for the worst. So, in the event of going off of the road and into some deep snow, you’ll feel much better having your handy-dandy scoop shovel in the trunk. Who knows, it could even save you a towing bill.
7. Salt or Kitty Litter
It doesn’t matter how awesome of a driver you are in perfect conditions — you still run the risk of going off the road in icy conditions. And for people driving sedans and coupes, that’s especially scary. If you don’t have four-wheel-drive on your vehicle (or even if you do), it’s a great idea to always have rock salt or kitty litter in your trunk. We’re serious!
All you have to do in the event that you’re stuck is scoop some out and place it so your tires can grab the salt/litter. Presto-chango! You’re unstuck!
Are you ready for the extras!?
8. Shaving Cream On, Uh, On My Windows?
Yep. You read that right. But it’s simple. And so is the science. Well, sort of.
See, your standard shaving cream has quite similar ingredients to commercial defoggers. Which means: just add one layer to the insides of your windows and wipe it off. What will be left on the windows will fight off any fog that comes near!
9. Wax On, Wax Off
So, you’re in major trouble if your headlights go out, period. But you’re in even worse trouble if your headlights go out while driving in the winter. You need them. Plain and simple.
The fix? Lube them with car wax. No, really. Take what you usually put on the body of the vehicle and put them on the headlights. Snow and ice won’t want know what to do and will instead scurry away for weeks!
10. Follow the Sun!
This might sound weird at first, but seriously, just follow the sun. As in: park facing east in the morning and, as the sun shifts, so too should your vehicle. This way, by the time you’re able to actually leave work, you won’t have to scrape anything, and you won’t have to sit and wait ten minutes for everything to warm up.
11. Wool? Cotton? Won’t Matter
Socks! That’s right. Socks. No joke: they’re life savers. And, the best part is that there are multiple things you can use them for in the winter. For example, if you have to park your car outside, put socks over your windshield wipers to prevent them from freezing to the windshield. Or, if you’re thrust into the awful situation of having to push a car (to get it unstuck, for example), you’ll actually have more traction in the snow if you stretch those very same socks over your boots.
Seriously, they take up little-to-no space in your vehicle, and they could make a huge difference. Get ’em in there!